Many questions about “A Trip to Mars” were unexplained; students, collectors, and Periscope followers wanted to know more about the backstory. Many of the works in this section of the portfolio were created to fill in the gaps. There are illustrations of the rocket sabotage scene, robots packed into crates for shipping, tests of robots to determine how much oxygen they can produce, and one Buckethead’s last night on Earth drinking with Jack.

Several scenes depicted the rocket, from preflight through flight. Another documented the moment when the Bucketheads the realized that something was terribly wrong and the ship was going to crash.

There is an interrelated series of images involving the fate of a plant cared for by one of the Mars travelers. We saw the Buckethead water it’s plant for the last time. Then the plant fell over and apparently died from lack of water while out in space its Buckethead died too in the crash landing. But wait, Hole-in-the-Buckethead to the rescue! It gets to the plant in the nick of time to water it and adopt it as its own.

Light is dawning as a part of the story and it is portrayed in various ways on different pots. For example, Seafal suspends a lantern from a tentacle. A mechanical lightning bug with a Coleman-type lantern for a butt is introduced.

I also concentrated on creating layers of stain that show not only wear and tear, but fading and discoloration. In order to achieve those effects I expanded the colors I used, of both stains and underglazes to include blues, greens, yellows and additional shades of red.

But the biggest change of all is that these pieces were fired in my new-to-me gas kiln! Never fear though, I am still a word fire potter at heart!

There were several reasons driving this change. Our wood firing community is growing (which is great!) so there is more competition for pots in a kiln that we fire only three times a year. Due to our long, snowy winters we do not have the option firing between November and April. In recent firings all of my work had not made it into the kiln which created a troublesome bottle neck. Plus, high and unpredictable loss rates in wood firing are a threat to the bottom line of a career potter. Waiting so long between firings also meant I did not have timely feedback on whether my explorations in form and surface were successful or not. Since my sales were strong, my inventory got alarmingly low at different seasons of the year. I needed a new way of finishing some of my work.

In this first firing of the gas kiln, Baby J, details in the illustrations came out sharper which is an important consideration in a handpainted story. The loss rate was close to zero! I made a dent in the backlog of work to be fired too!

It remains to be seen what this development will mean for my work, but, Baby J expands my options and has gotten me thinking…